Silver Star addresses controversial t-shirt design

December 31, 2010

T-Shirt manufacturer Silver Star had to respond to questions about one of its shirts as the design was similar to a Nazi symbol. The controversy came up when Clay Guida wore the shirt during an interview. Although Guida defended Silver Star in stating that the designers did not know of the perceived Nazi affiliation, the company pulled the shirt a year ago due to the Nazi similarities.

Via Cagewriter:

Silver Star has quickly apologized and said the shirt was discontinued a year ago. They said they didn’t realize the association between the design and the Nazis. I’ll buy that, simply because the swastika is the symbol most often associated with the Nazi party. After that, unless you’re addicted to the History Channel, it’s not always easy to associate every symbol.

The symbol in question is the totenkopf.

Payout Perspective:

Silver Star did the right thing by addressing this issue immediately. From a PR standpoint, it pointed out that it realized the issue and its solution was to take the design off the shelves. The unforseen problem was that Guida had the shirt and likely put it on without thinking of it. Since it pulled the t-shirt a year ago, Silver Star could have notified all of its sponsored athletes that they should not wear it due to the Nazi association. Obviously, this task may be asking too much, but Silver Star could have covered its bases it trying to preserve its image.

As Maggie Hendricks points out in her Cagewriter article, the best way to avoid confusion with Nazi imagery is to have fresh t-shirt designs. I agree that t-shirt makers need to come up with creative designs that do not just depict skulls, crossbones, iron crosses or any other symbols of war. Obviously, t-shirt designers make shirts based on its audience. Many manufacturers have designs featuring skulls and other logos showing aggression. While there is a segment of MMA fans that like the designs, makers should check the source of its inspiration for the designs. As in the case of this design, it was politically incorrect. Hendricks points out that other shirt makers, like Cagehero, have unique designs devoid of the war themes.

Lesnar’s next move unclear

December 31, 2010

Does Brock Lesnar want out of the UFC? Dave Metzler of The Wrestling Observermade news this week with news that Lesnar may walk away from the UFC after his contract ends. The news took off that Lesnar was quitting MMA and going back to the WWE–which was not the case. Metzler needed to clarify the situation in an interview with Steve Cofield of Cagewriter.

In his interview with Cofield, Metzler believes that Lesnar does not want to go back to pro wrestling full-time but may entertain one-off appearances like a Wrestlemania. He also believes that Lesnar would like a deal in which the UFC would allow him to do Wrestlemania in exchange for his participation on The Ultimate Fighter opposite Frank Mir.

Zach Arnold of Fight Opinionhas more about Lesnar and a return to the WWE:

What’s intriguing about UFC being reluctant to allow Brock to appear at Wrestlemania is that not only is UFC destroying WWE in PPV buys but they have also taken away a lot of disgruntled WWE/wrestling fans who are sick of the McMahon/Kevin Dunn cookie-cutter production. In one respect, Dana’s objections make complete and total business sense. On the other hand, why should he be worried about Lesnar appearing at Wrestlemania if the public at-large knows that UFC is real and WWE is not so much? Despite the amazing growth of UFC, I do think the situation with Lesnar indicates how nervous people in MMA still are to the fact that the public at-large, or at least the media, is willing to lump the two into the same business category.

MMA Fighting has Dana White’s thoughts on Lesnar:

[Dana] White reiterated that Lesnar is restricted under the terms of his contract from doing a guest spot for any pro wrestling promotion without the UFC’s permission, and that permission is not coming anytime soon. Asked if he could discuss any developments in Lesnar’s potential return to the octagon, White took a deep breath and took a drink of water before answering. “We’ll see what happens,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Not the most confident response from White.

There is speculation that his “run-in” with the Undertaker after his loss with Velasquez is setting up a return to the WWE just in time for Wrestlemania this spring. Thus, the reason we haven’t heard much about his return to the Octagon.  On the other hand, some think that he is destined for a third fight with Frank Mir and he would be a “coach” on The Ultimate Fighter. This could explain the reason why White has not announced the new coaches for the next TUF. Is the UFC waiting to hear on whether Lesnar agrees to do it. Based on White’s statements, the UFC is unsure what Lesnar’s next move will be.

Payout Perspective:

Lesnar is the biggest UFC draw when it comes to PPV. He has drawn 1 million buys in his last two fights. The Carwin fight drew 1.1 million buys and his loss to Velasquez drew 1 million buys. If Lesnar left, his drawing power would be sorely missed. GSP is the only other UFC fighter that can rival Lesnar in PPV buys.

Perhaps it’s his WWE training, but Lesnar is a main event draw despite what you think of his ability. With Cain Velasquez injured, Roy Nelson out indefinitely with legal issues and Shane Carwin recovering from surgery, the UFC Heavyweight division lacks many top of the food chain fighters to main event PPVs.

It will be interesting to see how the UFC approaches the situation. It must decide its TUF coaches and plan Heavyweight fights with or without Lesnar in the mix. Fortunately, the influx of WEC talent can fill fight cards, but the UFC has to determine its Heavyweight division with so many of its notable fighters out.

Velasquez out 6-8 months with shoulder injury

December 30, 2010

Bad news for the UFC as newly crowned Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez will be out 6-8 months due to what is being reported as a torn rotator cuff injury. Dana White confirmed the news (not of the torn rotator, but that Cain would be out) after the UFC 125 press conference held Wednesday.

From MMA Fighting:

“Yep, it’s true,” White gloomily responded when asked if Velasquez would have to be shelved. He said the summer of 2011 would hopefully bring Velasquez’s return.

When he does return, his next foe is already lined up. Junior Dos Santos has been promised a chance to fight for the belt, and he will likely be forced into a waiting game while Velasquez heals up.

Payout Perspective:

This disappointing news halts the momentum Velasquez had as a fighter and as a marketable figure. Ironically, Cain’s t-shirt sponsor, Dethrone Royalty, tweeted that new Cain hoodies were on sale starting Wednesday. Due to the expected surgery and rehabilitation, Velasquez may miss out on business opportunites that would take advantage of his champion status.

Although it was not confirmed, it was expected that Velasquez would make his first title defense against Junior dos Santos at the big event in Toronto on April 30th.  

Again, the UFC is in the position of putting the Heavyweight title on hold for a lengthy period of time until its champion can recover from injury. Due to Brock Lesnar’s uncertain health issues, the UFC  had an interim belt while waiting for Lesnar’s return. Its unlikely the UFC would do the same now. By default, Cain’s injury also shelves Junior dos Santos from another fight until Cain can come back. Its unlikely dos Santos would risk losing a fight before his title shot.  UPDATE:  According to MMA Weekly, dos Santos will not wait to fight for the Heavyweight championship. A bold move from dos Santos. Would Velasquez make it back in time to fight dos Santos in August in Brazil for the UFC’s return?

We have seen the challenger’s waiting game with Rashard Evans as he will wait over a year before fighting Shogun Rua in March 2011. Of course, Evans was in the Octagon in May, but he will have taken a 10 month sabbatical before he steps in again in March. For the UFC, having to wait for fighters to get healthy also means that the challenger in waiting is out of competition too. This is an unfortunate circumstance since the injuries affect long-term planning for fights and events.

Chuck Liddell retires

December 29, 2010

The big announcement Dana White promised at today’s press conference in lieu of the UFC 125 hype was the retirement of Chuck Liddell. As he ended his UFC fight career, he was given a new job. The Iceman was officially given the title of Executive VP of Business of Development.

From the UFC press release:

At today’s live press conference for UFC 125, Liddell took to the podium to express his gratitude for the support shown by the UFC, his fans, family, and friends during his career. He also spoke of his desire to make an immediate impact in his new role by helping UFC continue its global expansion.
 
“I love the sport and I’m excited to go into a new stage in my life and keep promoting something that I love,” Liddell said. “I’ve enjoyed everything about being a professional athlete and a UFC champion. At this point in my life though, the real challenge for me is to continue helping the UFC become the global powerhouse that we all know it will become. I look forward to working with everyone at the UFC, especially all of the fighters, to make the UFC the biggest and most successful sports organization.”
 
UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta noted that Liddell’s duties will include work on fighter relations and government regulation throughout the U.S. and internationally, but that Liddell’s main focus would be on developing new business for the company.

Payout Perspective:

Chuck Liddell’s official retirement from fighting comes as no surprise but the appointment to a position within the UFC is a nice touch. It keeps Liddell from the thought of returning to the Octagon while having him stay close as a recognizable face for the UFC. The move is similar to a retiring athlete moving into the front office of a sports team.

Liddell’s position sounds like an Ambassador of MMA. I think the new role will keep him involved with the UFC and will hopefully open new opportunities. Before GSP, Liddell was the face of the UFC. He is still a recognizable figure around the world and would be a welcome presence at UFC events and functions.

Ion television to show UFC 125 prelims

December 28, 2010

MMA Junkie reports that Ion television will host the UFC 125 prelims on January 1st.  Earlier in the day, it was reported that there would be no UFC prelims on Spike TV or streamed online. Thus, many believed that the UFC would not air prelims this Saturday.

Via MMA Junkie:

Ion Television, which was launched in 1998 as PAX TV, was rebranded as Ion Television in 2007. The channel was also known as i from 2005 to 2007. According to White, Ion Television is currently available in more than 100 million homes. The UFC boss said he valued the opportunity to bring three highly demanded fights to the masses, especially as fans continually hammer him to make up for some widely criticized previous contests.

White indicated that he would air three prelim matches instead of the usual two. The scheduled prelim matches to air include Baroni-Tavares, Davis-Stephens and Grispi-Poirier. Fans began a twitter campaign to get the Baroni-Tavares match aired and it appears that White listened.

Payout Perspective:

Great news for UFC fans. Not only do viewers get to see the UFC Prelims, it is a sign that there are network partners out there willing to air the UFC. In the report, White toyed with the idea that the Ion relationship could be more than just a one time thing.

Initially, I thought that January 1 would be a sports-heavy day (bowl games, NHL’s Winter Classic) that not airing prelims was a choice. But, it was likely that the UFC wanted to air more fights but did not have the time slot for it. This is a solid card and it would be disappointing not to get some of the prelims on air. In addition to Josh Grispi, hopefully we get to see Mike Brown and Antonio McKee.

New reality show to focus on women fighters

December 27, 2010

Producers of a new reality television show focusing on women MMA fighters is holding open casting calls for the show. The reality show, “Girlfight” will focus on the daily routines of female mixed martial artists.

From the press release from Combat Sports Media:

Female fighters with a marketable look are encouraged to apply for the multi-episode show by sending the show’s casting agents a resume, photos, video, as well as a cover letter stating why they feel they would be a strong fit for a reality female fighting show.

The casting is open to both professional and amateur fighters of any combat sports discipline including, but not limited to, MMA, Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, Boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing, Judo, Kung Fu, freestyle or Greco Roman wrestling, and Karate.

Below is a preview of the proposed reality show:

GirlFight TV show from Girl Fight on Vimeo.

Applications can be sent to: Girlfightshow@gmail.com

Payout Perspective:

This is another example of the growing popularity of MMA as we see more women involved in MMA. I believe that the female MMA reality show was attempted earlier this year. (h/t Cage Potato) However, I do not believe Ultimate Women’s Challenge ever made the air. The press release does not indicate if or when the show would air. Hopefully if the show is made, there is a mix of talent, personality and beauty. Let’s face it, the show will get better ratings if the female participants look like Gina Carano.

White, UFC fighters featured in Playboy

December 27, 2010

UFC fighters Ryan Bader, Jon Jones, Junior dos Santos, Vito Belfort and Stephan Bonnar join Dana White in a Playboy pictorial for its January 2011 issue.

Via Fight! Magazine:

The group took part in the “Stand Tough” fashion pictorial in which they modeled looks from Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger among others. Belfort will fight next at UFC 126 on Super Bowl weekend, where he will challenge Anderson Silva (#1 Middleweight) for the UFC Middleweight Championship. Bader and Jones will also meet on that card in a fight that will likely determine the number one challenger for the light heavyweight title.

Payout Perspective:

The pictorial is a great way to promote the big Super Bowl weekend card. With the exception of Bonnar, the choice of fighters make sense. The photospread is a good way for the UFC to market its fighters and for the fighters to market themselves as individuals. The photos appear to have them modeling designer brands. It gives the fighters an opportunity to do something different to promote themselves and expose (pun intended) themselves to a mainstream audience.

Of course, Arianny Celeste was featured in Playboy this past November. Forging a relationship with Playboy is a good way for the UFC to market itself to a huge younger, male demographic. I am sure we can expect more interviews and features with UFC fighters in Playboy.

Pacquiao picks Sugar Shane for next fight

December 26, 2010

Shane Mosley announced on his twitter account that he’s next in line to fight Manny Pacquiao on May 7, 2011.

Via the OC Register:

Mosley broke the news earlier tonight (December 21st) on his Twitter page: “Well Twitter land it’s official me, bob, and jay prince hammered everything out and bob is drafting up papers May 7 Sugar and PAC…..”

Payout Perspective:

Andre Berto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley or Devon Alexander. These 4 men would be much more entertaining than Sugar Shane. Mosley has not won in his last two fights and has been far from sharp. According to ESPN, Pacquiao’s camp picked the biggest name out of the bunch (Berto and Marquez. Not sure if Bradley or Alexander were considered for the fight).  ESPN’s Dan Rafael disagrees with Mosley as the choice. Although the fight will draw PPV numbers and garner a sell out in Vegas, it is far from the most entertaining or challenging fight for the Pac Man.

Fight Opinion has the back and forth between Steve Cofield and Kevin Iole on whether this fight is worthy of fight fans’ PPV dollars. The interesting part about their talk is how HBO’s 24/7 should sell the fight. The 24/7 shows have become such an important vehicle in the promotion of a fight. I think that the shows really get the casual viewer excited about the fight.  It’s been so successful that the NHL is using it to hype its annual January 1st game.

Turnkey Poll: UFC Best Positioned Emerging Property

December 24, 2010

MMA Junkie reports on the latest Turnkey sports poll which indicates that sports industry executives believe that the UFC is the best positioned sports property heading into 2011.

It also led the poll under the question: Which sports properties are you paying more attention to now than you did at the start of the year?

The poll is based on the votes of approximately 1,100 senior-level sports executives.

Via MMA Junkie:

The UFC dominated orgs such as the IZOD IndyCar Series, the X Games, Professional Bull Riders (PBR), the United Football League (UFL) and the WNBA. Voters, who come from the pro and college ranks, could choose from essentially every professional sports organization outside of veteran leagues such as MLB, NBA, NFL, NASCAR, MLS and the PGA. The UFC was the only mixed-martial-arts promotion available as a voting option.

Payout Perspective:

Polls such as these lend credibility that the UFC, and mixed martial arts as a whole, is a viable sport that demands mainstream attention. A few weeks ago, the Sports Business Journal conducted a similar poll that gave us contrary results.  In the SBJ poll, industry executives believed that the UFC property had peaked, but was second in voting under the category of which sports property had the most growth potential.

I would argue that you could rely on the Turnkey poll more than the SBJ poll since Turnkey is comprised of senior-level sports execs and, more importantly, the questions are much more direct than SBJ’s.  I do think that there is value to these type of polls as the UFC seeks to expand and hope to garner a shot at network television. It gives a snapshot of the perception of the sport and what others in the industry think of MMA as a sports property.

Penn and Fitch head UFC PR tour of Australia

December 23, 2010

B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch toured Australia last week to promote their February 27th bout in Sydney. The promotional tour may assist in educating Aussie fans with mixed views of mixed martial arts.

Via Fight Opinion:

BJ Penn, Jon Fitch, George Sotiropoulos, and Kyle Noke went on a public relations tour yesterday in Australia to promote the promotion’s upcoming event in Sydney in February. A red hot ticket and business will be booming. However, in places like Victoria and Melbourne, you won’t be seeing events any time soon.

The Victoria paper story on the UFC headline: “Ultimate in blood and gore” The article focuses on all the stereotypes of MMA. Cage fighting is banned in Victoria. Melbourne’s Herald Sun had a similar piece although it quoted George Sotiropoulos.

On the positive side, 9MSN and The Moonee Valley Leader had articles which featured UFC fighters. In the 9MSN article, Fitch is featured. The Moonee Valley Leader focuses on the UFC fighters visit to a local gym.

Payout Perspective:

With the expansion of the UFC to new locations, educating the locals on mixed martial arts is vital. The 4 stories show the opposing views of mixed martial arts. Obviously the UFC friendly stories are slanted since the journalists were given access to the fighters. The Victoria paper is the harshest critic of the UFC likely due to the ban in the state. Media tours like this one are necessary when trying to sway public opinon. The access the UFC provides is a good way to get its point of view out to the media.

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